Allen seeks 3rd straight Champions Tour win

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THE WOODLANDS, TEXAS (AP) - Michael Allen studied the PGA Tour statistics last year, and one number jumped out at him.

Luke Donald finished atop the money list and also led the regular tour with the lowest bogey average (2.01 per round). Webb Simpson was second on the money list and also second in fewest bogeys per round (2.08).

Allen knew that was no coincidence, and focused on consistency heading into his 2012 season on the Champions Tour. He has five top-10 finishes this year, including victories in his last two starts.

He can become the first player since Fred Couples in 2010 to win three straight starts at this weekend’s Insperity Championship at The Woodlands Country Club.

“We all go out there and have times where we are not playing as well, and you keep making pars,” Allen said. “That’s one thing that I’ve done very well in the last month, even the tournament in Mississippi where I finished second _ I had one bogey the whole week.”

Allen is currently the man to beat on the over-50 tour, leading the Charles Schwab Cup standings with 850 points after seven starts. He was winless in 40 starts since capturing the 2009 Senior PGA Championship, and can only guess at what’s clicked in recent weeks to turn near-misses into victories.

“I don’t really know what it is,” he said. “Obviously I’ve won the last few weeks, but I guess maybe once you win, you get a little more comfortable doing it. To me, I’ve just been out really having a great time doing what I’ve been working on for quite some time.”

Allen was the first-round leader here last year after shooting a 9-under 63 on Friday. He stumbled to a 79 in the second round and finished tied for 24th. Brad Faxon won last year at 10-under par.

Faxon had no top-10 finishes in his first six Champions Tour starts this year before teaming with Jeff Sluman to finish third at last week’s event in Savannah.

“I like fighting out of the darkness sometimes,” Faxon said. “That’s what makes you tougher. You are always trying to improve.”

Couples, who would’ve been the tournament’s other top lure for fans, withdrew because of the flu. Couples played at the University of Houston and draws immense galleries when he plays in the Houston Open on the regular tour, where he’s made the cut in 19 consecutive appearances.

The 52-year-old Couples said he developed a high fever this week, and is hoping to recover in time for next week’s Players Championship.

Jeff Freeman, meanwhile, will make his Champions Tour debut this weekend. The former Nationwide Tour player won last year’s Champions qualifying tournament and turned 50 on April 15. Freeman’s older brother, Robin, is also playing this week.

Allen is eager to shoot for his third consecutive victory, while he’s also eyeing the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco later this summer. He grew up in nearby San Mateo and has been a member at the Olympic Club since he was 14. He got Arnold Palmer’s autograph during the 1966 U.S. Open there.

Allen is playing in a sectional qualifier at Lake Merced on June 4, and is hoping to make his third U.S. Open appearance since 2000. But playing that tournament on one of his favorite courses would fulfill a lifelong dream.

“That’s what I’ve always wanted to do in golf,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to play in the U.S. Open there. I think it’s going to be a phenomenal week and I would just love to be a small part of it.”

Earlier in the week, Insperity announced that it had extended its title sponsorship through 2016. The tournament is christening its new spring date after it was moved from the fall. The featured attraction for fans comes Saturday, when Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player form a threesome in an exhibition taking place in the midst of the tournament itself.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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